Going home

going home

When I was planning my trip home to the East Coast for Christmas, I envisioned coming back seeming different somehow. More cultured maybe. Lively. Slightly tanned, better hair.

And, well, I indulged in that mindset a bit. I got a dramatic new haircut. I made a point of getting some color at the beach last week. You know, the important things in life.

But the more I thought about going home magically changed—at least on the inside—it dawned on me that maybe that was the wrong approach. True, I have changed in a lot of small yet significant ways. And I’ve learned so much in just a few short months—about myself, about the journalism field, about the City of Angels, and about what uprooting your life to start a new adventure with your boyfriend and pursue a dream looks like.

What I didn’t think about at first, though, was how everything back at home would be changing on me. Time didn’t stop the day I left Maryland. Things wouldn’t feel the way I remembered them from before. In many ways, home would be plenty different on its own without me making a conscious effort. Transforming as the result of personal growth and experience is a wonderful (and necessary) thing. Altering things about yourself to seem more interesting than you actually are? Not something I want to ever get caught up in.

What I don’t want to change? Goofing around with my sisters at a significantly decreased maturity level. That amazing spoiled feeling of being fed and pampered by your parents. Knowing no matter where else I choose to live, home base will be here for me when I need it.

It’ll be just a week of family time before I head back to L.A., and I intend to make the most of the whirlwind trip. John and I have a “Four Christmases” style visit ahead of us, so things may be a bit quiet around these parts (as they have been for the past week). But I’ll be checking in for an end-of-year post and spending the downtime I do have brainstorming what 2014 will be like for WTH. There will be changes, yes. But at its heart, still the same blog it’s always been.

In the meantime, if you’re celebrating, have a Merry Christmas. Make the most of it—you never know how things will change.

Witty Title Here goes West: from Baltimore to Memphis and beyond

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Three days ago, John and I hugged our families goodbye and said hello to the open road. We were at the beginning of a long journey from Baltimore, Maryland to Los Angeles, California. Since then, we’ve broken into a house in Asheville, performed at an open mic in Nashville, and had the best fried chicken and fried green tomatoes in all of Memphis.

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I write to you from a Super 8 motel in the Texas panhandle after an 11-hour drive. Three days have gone by so quickly, and yet waving goodbye to Baltimore feels like it was ages ago. It was hard hugging my sisters knowing I wouldn’t be able to again for awhile. Even though we still have a lot of road to travel, apartments and jobs to find, and, for me, school to prepare for, it almost feels as though we got the hardest part over with at the beginning of our trip. And right now, I’m just taking it one day at a time. This is a trip I’ve looked forward to for awhile, and I have every intention of enjoying it. And we really have so far.

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Some of the highlights: Day one started out in true John and Cassie form. When we travel together, we tend to run into mishaps. Which are always funny… later. Just an hour or so from our first stop in Asheville, we found out that John’s cousin, whom we planned on staying with, was actually at a Phish concert about ten hours away in Atlanta. (Whose fault this misunderstanding was is irrelevant, because it wasn’t mine.) But John’s cousin assured us over the phone that his back window was probably open if we wanted to break in. And in case it wasn’t, his Phishead friend offered us—complete strangers to him—the use of his home, too. (The key was above the doorframe. Apparently, questionable security is how they do it in the South.) So we took our chances and went to check out the friend’s house—an artist’s shack in which there was a random collection of objects and no AC. We drank a couple of beers on this kind stranger’s porch before opting for a break-in at the cousin’s air-conditioned house. We were successful, and we slept like babies. Day one: a success, all things considered.

nashville

We didn’t have much time to spend in Asheville, though, because it was time to move onto our next stop, Music City. Nashville was a sauna filled with tourists. Our hotel room (the cheapest one we could find in town, and still not very cheap) had construction going on right outside the door, so we switched rooms. To my horror, the second room had a giant cockroach clinging threateningly to the wall next to the bed. John killed it for me, and it was all very glamorous and romantic. Determined to join in on the live music scene, we signed up for an open mic night at the Blue Bar. It took a lot of waiting around (and, subsequently, me building up liquid courage), but we got the chance to sing a couple of the songs from John’s new album, plus covers of the Rolling Stones and Gillian Welch.

The next day, we made a short stop in my mom’s hometown of Columbia, Tennessee, where I got to visit with some family. It was so special to me to be able to see them before moving to California, and it was especially cool that John had the chance to meet them. Two of my worlds collided in a pretty awesome way.

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Several people told us we’d be better off spending two nights in Nashville rather than stopping overnight in Memphis, but it ended up being one of the highlights of the trip so far. When we pulled up to Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken, the surrounding industrial neighborhood looked desolate and sketchy. But we walked in, and the place was packed with people—young and old, black and white, local and foreign. A jukebox blared and the cooks yelled at each other in the back, and we ate in a state of fried bliss. Beale Street was impossible to resist with the lights and loud music which, to me, topped the honky tonk that Nashville’s Broadway boasted so much of. Somethin’ about those blues, I guess. Between the food and music, it was worth having driven through for the night.

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memphis

And now, we’ve made a big dent in the midwestern portion of our trip and have a whole lot left to look forward to. We’re taking our time with this trip with six more days to go before we get to L.A., and I’ll be updating, mostly in the form of photos, as much as I can. (I’ve been making more frequent updates on Instagram and Twitter if you want to stay up-to-date.)

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Next stop: Santa Fe. Here’s to new adventures, harmonies, and speed limits of 75 mph. See you on the road!

 

Writing is craft

When I started the guest post series, I had no idea there’d be so many people interested in contributing! There are still lots of talented guest writers to look forward to in February. After this month, I will continue to share the talent with you, but on a more scaled-back level. But right now, please welcome the lovely Madeleine Forbes.

guest post series

writing

I’m in the mountains of Portugal, the Serra da Estrela. The farm is basic, we have no heating or electricity, water comes from a pipe in the rock. I have drunk coffee that morning and gone for a walk. Crouching in the dew, the morning mist dampens the pages of the cloth bound notebook my brother gave me. I write what I know in that moment.

A cool morning but no rain. Blue sky and the sun piercing cotton wool clouds above the mountain. It’s the last Sunday of 2012 and all is quiet except for the rushing of the river. Already I am losing track, already I had to count on my fingers to work out the date.

The first things I ever wrote were on paper, stories I illustrated laboriously in a quiet corner of the classroom, secrets recorded in salvaged notebooks, journals wept over, burned and ripped. Now I scribble fragments on the back of receipts and train tickets. I gather them online because I’ve found as words are written, they become polished, like river stones. Sentences untangle and flow in different ways. It’s a kind of processing, refining. Trouble is, onscreen they grow slippery, are too easily flushed away.

Offscreen, the words we write exist beyond their meaning. They mark, they stain. Sheets of paper stack up and fold. Mistakes are crossed out, torn through, filled in. Sometimes it’s easier just to leave them as they are. There is no delete, no cut-and paste. I like the way Tammy Strobel puts it.

“I’m on the computer too much and there is something freeing about putting pen to paper. I’m also less likely to edit while I write. I just keep the pen moving across the page.”

At the same time it’s lighter somehow, on paper. The things I use a pen for: shopping lists, fridge notes, directions. Ephemera, not to be kept. It’s exciting to step off the grid and make marks, to write messages only you will see. It’s how I started writing a book, because away from the screen it didn’t feel like work, it felt like imagination, like play.

Doesn’t matter how you do it. Write in a cheap crappy notebook like Natalie Goldberg, because “you feel that you can fill it quickly and afford another”, or write in a luscious Moleskine with a fountain pen.

Write whatever you can smell and taste and touch and hear, what you see when you step up away from the brightness and look around. Write down that weird dream you keep having in the minutes just after you first wake up, the thought that scares you, the thing you would never admit to anyone, something that only you remember. You can burn it if you want. Write neatly and admire your work, write badly, cross it out. It’s only paper.

“I pay more attention to each word and sentence because they take so much longer to create. I am more aware of the music and rhythm of it, because I have slowed down to such an extent that each sentence sounds and echoes in my head as I write it.”

Andrea Eames

With a scrap of paper and a pen, you can capture moments out of the air, like magic. Go back to it once in a while, when things get stuck, when you need to walk somewhere, to hold your head up, when things are stuck. A word or two is enough. It’s a good habit for a New Year, it takes no time at all, and it’s free.

You never know where it might take you.

Madeleine Forbes
Madeleine is a writer, cyclist and aspiring beekeeper currently living in Cambridge, England. She posts rambles, musings and meditations sporadically at madeleineforbes.
wordpress.com, which often start life as scribbles on scraps of paper she finds at the bottom of her bag. She is currently working on her first novel.

 

photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc